Here's a letter I had published in Sunday Morning Post (26 March 2006):
Dear Sir: It's now spring, and across east Asia there has been no evidence of H5N1 in migratory wild birds this winter. Here in Hong Kong, a few resident local birds died of H5N1, their infections were likely linked to poultry smuggling around Chinese New Year. Most were in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island, also suggesting a connection to bird markets.
Despite speculation by virologists, there is no proof that wild birds can sustain and spread H5N1; instead, as we have again just seen in Hong Kong, it typically kills them. As a result of this, plus low amounts excreted by the few ducks that may survive, infections in wild birds quickly die out.
Though natural wild bird flus are fairly common in waterbirds, H5N1 is a product of poultry farms, and has never been found at Mai Po Marshes, despite close to 20,000 birds being tested there. The poultry industry is both the source of H5N1, and the key reservoir; poultry markets are among the key means of spreading the virus.
Thus, for anyone concerned about H5N1, Mai Po Marshes is one of the safest places in Hong Kong. And yet, the government has closed Mai Po - ostensibly to protect people, by reducing contact with wild birds, even though birdwatching involves observing rather than touching them. There was no scientific basis for closing Mai Po, or aviaries (unless authorities are scared human visitors are accidentally carrying H5N1, such as on clothing), or the Wetland Park, or for halting birdwatching tours in city parks.
There is no scientific basis for the reserve's continued closure. It is time to reopen Mai Po.